At a Nov. 13 rally of over 200 Oakland residents, parents, teachers and students, the Black Organizing Project officially released its “People’s Plan for Police-Free Schools.”
BOP has been organizing in Oakland since 2011 to stop the funding of school police and the deployment of any police in Oakland public schools.
Jessica Black, BOP organizing director, welcomed everyone and gave a short history of the fight to dismantle the Oakland school police department. She outlined the major points of the People’s Plan, including phasing out the school police department by 2020, using the saved funding to hire more counselors and retraining school employees to be responsive to the needs of all students.
Jackie Byers, BOP executive director, referred to the last Oakland Unified School Board meeting where teachers and parents were attacked by school and city police for protesting Oakland school closures. She said, “If you can be afraid of going to a school board in fear of being harmed … or just for raising your voice, imagine what our students face in the classroom every day at the hands of police. They have to face law enforcement at the BART, they have to face law enforcement in public housing, in their communities and in their own schools.”
Byers went on to note that BOP has been calling for the abolition of the police from the schools for a long time. The community activist called upon everyone to join the “Black Organizing Project to finally say enough is enough!”
According to the 11-page People’s Plan, the police have historically profiled and arrested a disproportionate number of Black students in the schools. BOP is calling for the school district to set up a real “sanctuary district” to protect Black and Brown young people in the schools.
A group of Black students read excerpts of the People’s Plan at the rally. “You cannot allow 73% of students arrested to be Black (who are 26% of students enrolled) and claim to be for equity and putting students first. The district’s commitment to providing ‘sanctuary’ for immigrant students and families rings completely hollow as long as OUSD fails to stop the hemorrhaging of Black students and families from OUSD due to the toxic climate created by policing, criminalization and push-out.”
BOP has been collecting data on this racist policing for nearly 10 years.
Speak-out at board meeting
Following the rally, BOP organizers led the large group, which included members of the Oakland Education Association, the teachers’ union, inside La Escuelita to bring their message to the school board. This was the first scheduled board meeting after teachers and parents were brutalized by the cops.
Family members, activists and students marched up to the podium and took over the regularly scheduled public comment section of the meeting. Despite attempts by board members to silence BOP and its message, speaker after speaker addressed the board using their own sound system — since the board kept turning off the microphone.
Black Organizing Project members hand-delivered copies of the People’s Plan to board members. Parent after parent took the podium to demand that the board respond to the plan and remove police from the schools.
Supporters of the People’s Plan included the Oakland Is Not for Sale Coalition, consisting of teachers, parents and students, protesting the board plan to close 24 Oakland flatland public schools. The coalition has incorporated the BOP demand of no police in Oakland schools into their campaign.
The board was never able to regain control of their public meeting, so they left to go to their private chambers upstairs. BOP and Not for Sale members turned the meeting into a public forum — indicting the board for racist policing and school closures. The students in the Not for Sale Coalition eventually occupied the board members’ empty seats and held a short meeting highlighting community issues.
Jessica Black called the People’s Plan “historic.” She challenged the board to join this trend that is happening all around the country. “You can either stand with BOP and be in solidarity that this school district is going to end the school-to-prison pipeline … or you had better get out of your seats,” Black concluded.
For more information about this struggle, check out the Facebook page of the Black Organizing Project. The People’s Plan can be found at tinyurl.com/webt8tr/.